It’s been nearly two years since Logan Rogerson last wore the silver fern and he can’t wait for that spell to come to an end this week.
Rogerson and his U-23 national team mates are set to take on Tonga in their opening match of the Pacific Games in Apia, Samoa today (July 8) and the former Wellington Phoenix striker is relishing the opportunity to return to international action.
“To represent my country is an unbelievable feeling,” he says.
“I remember the first time I put on the shirt and sung the national anthem, it was crazy. It’s been a long time since I’ve played for New Zealand and to be part of this team was a big reason why I came back. When I wear the fern, I think of my family and how proud of me they are. I’ve been away to a few of these tours in the islands and the feeling is always the same, it doesn’t matter where you play.”
Still only 21, Rogerson has already been a name familiar to Kiwi football fans for a number of years. He was called up to the All Whites at just 17 and made his debut in a 1-0 win over Oman at the end of 2015. He went on to feature in New Zealand’s triumphant OFC Nations Cup campaign the following year and now has three senior caps to his name.
He has also starred for his country at age-group level and was last sighted in a white shirt at the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Korea Republic, in which New Zealand progressed to the knockout stages of that tournament for the first ever time on foreign soil.
That background makes Rogerson the most experienced member of a youthful squad taking part in the Pacific Games and he is looking to step up to a leadership role.
“Some of the boys haven’t been involved before so they’ll be buzzing to get their debuts and all that,” he says.
“But this is my fifth tour to the islands so I know everything that gets thrown at us and hopefully I can share that with the rest of the team.”
Above: The U23 football team in a post training huddle in Samoa
Des Buckingham’s side will certainly be tested in Samoa as they are coming up against full-strength, senior national teams who are competing in a tournament that has a high standing among the Pacific Island countries.
New Zealand are using the Pacific Games as the first steps in a quest Buckingham hopes will lead to qualification for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which can be secured at the OFC Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Fiji from late September.
Making it to Japan would be the culmination of a lifelong goal for Rogerson so motivation won’t be an issue.
“When you’re growing up, tournaments like the Olympics are what you want to play in and I was part of the last group that unfortunately missed out on qualifying,” he says.
“I’m lucky enough to get a second chance so I want to make the most of it. The Olympics is such a big stage and for us to be there would be amazing.”
Rogerson is also looking to use the Pacific Games and subsequent Olympic qualifying campaign to get a run of games under his belt and build confidence as he looks to continue his professional club career in Europe.
“Hopefully, I can have a good tournament and perform well and my next step would be to head back over there. I want to take everything I learned last year and bring it with me into the new season.”
New Zealand U-23 squad for Pacific Games
Cam Brown (Central United)
Ellis Hare-Reid (Ayr United)
Conor Tracey (Central United)
Jordan Spain (Cashmere Technical)
Sean Liddicoat (Coastal Spirit)
Robert Tipelu (Onehunga Sports)
Jackson Brady (Christchurch United / California Polytechnic State University)
Jorge Akers (Miramar Rangers)
Dylan de Jong (Eastern Suburbs)
Billy Jones (University of Nevada, Las Vegas)
Dane Schnell (Western Springs)
Jake Porter (Onehunga Sports)
Stafford Dowling (Onehunga Sports)
Sean Cooper (Onehunga Sports / University of California, Davis)
Lachie McIsaac (Birkenhead United)
Ollie Whyte (Rio Ave FC)
Logan Rogerson (Unattached)
Seth Clark (Cashmere Technical)
Ihaia Delaney (Western Suburbs)
Byron Heath (Lower Hutt City)
Head Coach: Des Buckingham
Assistant Coach: Hiroshi Miyazawa
Goalkeeping Coach: Mark Oates
Strength and Conditioning: Danny Deigan
Physio: Roland Jeffery
Team Manager: Seamus Marten
Tonga vs New Zealand U-23
Monday 8 July, 4pm (3pm NZT)
New Zealand U-23 vs Samoa
Wednesday 10 July, 4pm (3pm NZT)
Vanuatu vs New Zealand U-23
Friday 12 July, 4pm (3pm NZT)
New Zealand U-23 vs Papua New Guinea
Monday 15 July, 10am (9am NZT)
Samoa 2019 Pacific Games